A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Among the Aesir gods in Norse mythology, the supreme god Odin, is frequently depicted sitting on his high seat, Hlidskjalf, in Asgard, the home of the gods.
Odin always has his two raven companions, Hugin (Huginn) and Munin (Munnin) on his shoulders.
Hugin is believed to represent ‘memory’, while Munin personifies ‘thought’.
Every day, Odin sends them out and they fly across the worlds to seek for important news and events. Odin surveys the worlds from Hlidskjalf and must know reports of what is going on in all Nine Worlds.
In the evening, Hugin and Munin return to Odin’s shoulders and during dinner in Valhalla, they whisper all they have heard in his ears.
‘Hrafnagaldur Odins’ (Odin’s Raven Chant), an obscure, Icelandic poem in the style of the Poetic Edda mentions that Odin is particularly worried one day. Idun, the wide of Bragi, god of music, poetry and eloquence, has disappeared, and an untimely winter is coming from the north.
Image credit: Odin with his ravens Hugin and Munin. From the 18th-century Icelandic manuscript SÁM 66, in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.
He decides to send his ravens to the underworld to investigate the disappearance of the goddess Idun. But the report of Hugin and Munin is enigmatic and unsatisfying.
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Ravens are traditionally very important creatures in Norse and other mythologies. They are linked with battles and death, not only in poems but also in reality. They are scavengers usually found among the corpses on the battlefield in the aftermath of war. In Norse mythology, a raven plays an additional (double) role as a sign of evil or a sign of good.
But Hugin and Munin that we meet on Odin’s shoulders symbolize his power to see into the future, his mind and thoughts. Additionally, as symbols of the battlefield, they represent god Odin’s welcoming to Valhalla, the Hall of Odin, in which the warriors slaughtered in battle – the Einheriar – can enjoy a happy afterlife.
Hugin and Munin are not common ravens; they have special abilities. They can fly very fast and manage to visit the Nine Worlds in only one day and manage to come back just in time for Odin’s dinner. They have an amazing observation ability and can understand and speak human language.
In one myth, giant Suttung entrusted the 'mead of poetry and inspiration' to Gunlod, his daughter, bidding her guard it night and day, and allow neither gods nor mortals to have so much as a taste.
To fulfil father's command, Gunlod carried the three vessels into the hollow mountain, where she kept watch over them carefully. She was confident the vessels were safe there, but she was wrong.
Gunlod did not suspect that Odin had discovered their place of concealment, thanks to the sharp eyes of his faithful ravens Hugin and Munin, keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties and seeing everything what happens around them.
It would be unfair to say that Hugin and Munin are Odin’s spies or servants; they are rather his very wise advisers. Or perhaps they are personification of the god Odin’s intellectual powers, or … his 'fylgja' - animal spirits that accompany him for good or bad.
Every day, Odin was anxiously watching for their return at nightfall:
".... Hugin and Munin fly every day, across the Gaping Ground.
I worry that Hugin may not return,
but I am more worried about Munin..." (Andy Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore 'The Lay of Grimnir")
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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Neil Gaiman N. Norse Mythology